Mozart Breath’s 5 Questions for Steve Hanft is an enjoyable experience. Steve kindly answered some questions that I did indeed feel to be of worth and also of value as well, he is a real nice chap for his time and it is my hope that the reader will dig his responses. It should be noted that Mr. Hanft is both a filmmaker and musician, and his question responses will fill in the details as to his past, present, and future in both artistic arenas…
Music By Day: Primary Musical Influences Growing Up?
Steve Hanft: I had three records I comandeered from my parents when I was a kid that I wore out, Yellow Submarine by the Beatles, Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding, and the Monkees greatest hits. Oh yea and a Leonard Cohen record that I learned all the lyrics too. Then I started skateboarding and we would rock Van Halen, Zeppelin, and AC/DC. Then I got really into Devo for about a year (first three Lp’s), then all of a sudden I was punk, cut my own hair all spikey and uneven and started going to Black Flag Bad Brains and Adolescents, hardcore shows which I love, also loved Crass and the Sex Pistols, my dad was still listening to cool stuff that was a lot different like Miles Davis, and Nino Rota, and I loved that stuff too, so I was always all over the place, just good music, you know, I also loved Fleetwood Mac and Blondie, listened to a lot of radio, and Rodney on the Roq always on Sunday nights, and made cassette tapes back then, there was always someone who had lps I could tape, I liked the Cramps and early Bad Religion. Then later in filmschool I heard the Velvet Underground and that really stoked me, also got heavily into blues like Fred Mcdowell and Howlin Wolf, and then folk and country like George Jones and Woodie Guthrie. Got heavily influenced by a friend named Chandler who had a band called the Raunch Hands when I lived in Hoboken, he turned me onto 60′s garage like the Sonics and stuff, loved the first Nirvana record when I heard it, I was one of those Nirvana nerds when Bleach came out. Recently my friends who have a reggae club in Echo PArk called the Dub Club got me heavily into soundsystem reggae, which is a musical style of vocals over turntable reggae beats, amazing, and these guys have incredible microphone control and some of the best lyrics ever written. Dig good hip hop which I’m realizing comes from Soundsystem reggae. Basically I like music that’s good, and I can’t like music that’s overproduced in a crummy way or has no spirit because Thelonius Monk said it that way in Straight No Chaser, and lets face it Monk Knows his shit.
Music By Day: Tell me a little bit about the various bands that you have been in, and does this include Sexy Death Soda?
Steve Hanft: Yea SDS for sure, we put out a rad CD called California Police State. Let’s see my first band was Loser, it was a band I started at Cal Arts with Steve Hillenburg on guitar , Clare Crespo on bass, dude named Carlos on drums. We were just making punk noise, I was screaming a lot in the mic wearing only underwear and a stupid wig, breathing fire on stage, Hillenburg and I wore wigs, we were into going crazy, blowing off steam from the pressures of film school. Later I met Beck and asked him to join Loser, before he had the song Loser. We kept playing out in Loser at Jabberjaw, Al’s Bar, and Raji’s, (great clubs that are no more in LA), well Beck and I did, got a new drummer named Moses and a new bass player named Mike Tolmin, who we used to force to where silver body paint on stage, Moses had a hook up at a church in East Los Angeles where we could practice and we played alot and sort of noised out after a year and half, then Beck got famous with his song Loser so we changed our name to Liquor Cabinet because he was still in the band, around then we got a girl drummer named Lisa Dembling and Clare Crespo back on bass. We did a great demo tape called the Sasquatch Sessions with some great songs on it. It was kind of quieter and I wasnt screaming and Beck and I did the vocals and wrote the songs together. Our drummer and Beck clashed, Lisa was sort of strong minded didnt like jamming with Beck anymore even though he had a number one hit with Loser, so she kicked him out of the band, isn’t that funny, people thought it was crazy, I didnt care and Beck didn’t either, we got a interesting guy named Thomas on guitar then, and he was no where near as good as Beck. Then we moved back to Ventura where I was born and started Sexy Death Soda for awhile, we toured a lot. It was awesome, I was breathing a lot of fire then. Elliott Smith used to come to our shows and would always request a ridiculous song we had called Beeper City. My new record April March and Steve Hanft is a collaboration with my pal Elinor Blake (aka April March). She is just really cool and has a following in France and does music for Tarantino films and stuff so thats rad. we just recorded it over the last couple of years over at the Radar Bros. studio in Atwater. El and I wrote the trax.
Music By Day: How exactly are you influenced as a filmmaker, and how important is music within the context of your own films?
Steve Hanft: I just try to bring life experience into my work and find humor and interesting things that happen in the world and bring it to an strange place. I guess I love individuals who are on their own. So I try to make portraits of loners who are original, because I love them. Music too I love it, it’s part of my heartbeat.
Music By Day: What are your upcoming film projects in the works?
Steve Hanft: I’m almost finished with two new films; one is a doumentary on the legends of soundsytem reggae coming from Jamaica and around the world to perform at a particular small club in Los Angeles, and the other is a fictional feature called Averageman. It’s and adaptation of surreal character driven novel written in the 70′s by a DWP worker name Rush Riddle. It’s about a guy who plays contests for a living gets experimented on by weird rock n roller girls, gets falsely accused of attempted murder, and then changes into a new person
Music By Day: And finally, what do you think of the new Gary Wilson material?
Steve Hanft: Gary is an amazing musician amd has a deep and dark sense of humor. I love it. It changed the way I look at everything. Gary makes me laugh because he is a mad musical jester.
…Now then, stay tuned for more interview adventures in the future, my friends.